When Senator John McCain said he would hold committee hearings if Bowe Bergdahl was not punished as a deserter, Bergdahl’s lawyer objected. McCain chairs the Senate Armed Services Committee that, it turns out, will review any future command assignments or promotions for General Robert B. Abrams, who will decide the sergeant’s fate. The lawyer, Eugene R. Fidell, said that Senator McCain’s statement could influence General Abrams.
I don’t think McCain’s statement changes anything; Abrams surely understood both McCain’s views on Bergdahl and the Senator’s power over the general’s future in the military. What McCain’s statement, and the resulting publicity, has done is make apparent to the broad public another of the shortcomings of the military justice system. It may also have raised the stakes for Abrams because a decision to punish Bergdahl will always have an asterisk.
But, you who live in states that elect judges should not feel self-righteous. At the very best, judges in those states have one eye on public opinion, and that’s just at the very best. Elected judges may also be influenced by the views of supporters or contributors, whose fate or whose friends’ fates they may be deciding. Colorado voters saw the light in 1966, I’m happy to say.